Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to operate its London Heathrow-Austin route daily from spring 2023.
The route launched on May 25 as Virgin’s first new route to the US since 2017. It is currently a four-times-weekly service operated by a B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, configured with 31 Upper Class, 35 Premium and 192 Economy Delight, Classic and Light seats.
The flight times are as follows:
- VS231 departing London Heathrow at 1135, arriving into Austin-Bergstrom at 1605
- VS232 departing Austin Bergstrom International at 1805, arriving into London Heathrow at 0900 the following day
Business Traveller was onboard one of the carrier’s flights to Austin on June 8, with Texan flags, themed cocktails and cowboy hats to mark the occasion.
We spoke to the carrier’s VP of sales Lee Haslett onboard the flight about the new launch.
“One of the reasons we selected Austin is that in the last ten years it has become the fourth fastest growing city in the US, with companies like Meta, Amazon and Dell [setting up hubs]. It has a really strong entrepreneurial and tech culture.
“It also has a 20 per cent higher average ticket price than other US routes. The route is performing really well for us, and there’s mass demand for it. Part of the reason it’s so strong is the corporate [market], and it connects really well onto our India network with really strong connections to Delhi – there’s a strong flow to India for that tech-entrepreneurial [market]. It’s also looking good into June.”
“The route is also really strong with our joint venture partners. From a corporate traveller perspective, there are full benefits with Delta, KLM, allowing you to earn and burn miles. There are also brilliant connections from a corporate perspective – you can also connect on to ten cities from Austin with Delta.”
He also explained that Austin was a good city for the Virgin brand, in particular its tagline ‘Keep Austin weird’. “Our brand really fits well in this market. It fits with Austin as a destination.”
Upon arrival in the Texan city, Business Traveller attended a press conference with Sir Richard Branson, chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen, Mayor of Austin Steve Austin, President – International, Delta Air Lines Alain Bellemare, and the airport’s chief business and finance officer, Mookie Patel.
Richard Branson commented on the choice of Austin for the new route, stating:
“Why Austin? I think it’s made for Virgin. There are many entrepreneurial companies in Austin… London is equally entrepreneurial and I think Virgin is the kind of airline that people from Austin would enjoy flying.”
He added that there were load factors of over 75 per cent on the Austin route.
In a press release provided by the carrier Jarvinen added:
“Seeing our aircraft touch down in Austin today fills me with great pride and is a momentous occasion as it represents Virgin Atlantic’s new phase of growth.
“There are so many synergies between Virgin Atlantic and the city of Austin. We love the philosophy and desire to celebrate local brands, businesses and communities and we’re delighted to welcome customers, both existing and new onboard, to explore this fabulously quirky city.”
For our recent destination feature on Austin, see: